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Hungary close to deal with Sinopharm on coronavirus vaccine

Hungary is closing in on a deal with Chinese company Sinopharm to buy its coronavirus vaccines, it announced today.

The deal would cover the purchase of one million doses provided that Hungarian authorities approve the vaccine, said Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, at a press conference in Budapest. He added that Hungary would also negotiate with Russia over possible vaccine procurement — and took aim at the EU for being too slow with its deliveries.

On Facebook, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó also ramped up criticism of Brussels today, calling the EU’s vaccine procurement  “scandalously” slow, according to Reuters.

The EU can provide fewer than 100,000 doses per week, while Hungary could vaccinate 500,000 people per day, he said. At the current pace, it would take 30 weeks to vaccine those most at risk.

The prospect of other countries turning the vaccines produced by Russia and China has rattled some EU policymakers. German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned in a Bundestag speech Wednesday that China and Russia would step in if the EU can’t quickly provide the jab to its cash-strapped members in Southern and Eastern Europe.

With regards to Russia’s vaccine, the Commission has said Hungary is free to purchase it, but it then must accept “full responsibility” and liability.

Coronavirus vaccine skepticism has grown in Hungary over the past year, and concern is rising that Orban’s politicization of the vaccine issue will only reinforce those beliefs.

Jillian Deutsch and Lili Bayer contributed reporting.

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